2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships

CAPTION: Bulls Run Road, near Judgeford, just north of Wellington, is the venue this weekend for round three of the 2023 New Zealand Enduro Championships series. Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ.com

It’s now or never for New Zealand Enduro Championships title hopefuls to stand up and be noticed, with the third round of four set for Sunday and Monday of this coming King’s Birthday Weekend.

Time is rapidly running out for riders below the top three in the standings to put themselves into contention for overall honours in the Yamaha-sponsored series as riders head into the North Island after the consecutive back-to-back weekends of racing in the South Island earlier this month.

It was Omihi’s Ethan McBreen, Taupo’s Brad Groombridge and Tauranga-based former Wairoa man Tommy Watts who led the way at the opening round of the series at Omihi, north of Christchurch, on the weekend of May 6-7, and it was the exact same talented trio who dominated proceedings at round two, another two-day event, this time in forestry south-west of Nelson, the following weekend.

That means the series is now at the halfway stage and the pressure really goes on.

“This weekend will also be the 50th time that an enduro has been held at this venue, so it is a very special weekend indeed, in more ways than one because it is a milestone anniversary event,” said Motorcycling New Zealand Enduro commissioner Justin Stevenson.

With two days of racing back-to-back at each of the four rounds this season, riders’ strength, stamina and determination is bound to be sorely tested, particularly this King’s Birthday Weekend, with both days of action on Sunday and Monday (June 4-5) scheduled for the steep, treacherous and unforgiving Moonshine Valley venue in the Akatarawa Forest, inland from Porirua, near Judgeford.

One rider who may throw a spanner in the works for main title contenders McBreen, Watts and Groombridge is Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker, the multi-time national Hard Enduro Series Champion who considers Moonshine his “home turf”.

Whitaker, also a record eight-time former national trials champion, did not contest the opening two South Island rounds of this year’s enduro nationals, but he could be considered a favourite to dominate at Moonshine’s round three.

Nelson’s Bailey Basalaj, Christchurch’s Josh Dando and New Plymouth’s Sam Parker round out the top half dozen riders overall at the halfway stage of the 2023 series and perhaps they will also step up the pace and challenge for the outright win this weekend.

The course, signposted on Bulls Run Road, is just a hop and a skip from the urban hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital city, but the rugged nature of the terrain there makes this difficult to believe. Rain in the early part of this week may produce some slippery or boggy sections in the forest, but the long-range forecast for the weekend is good.

The series will wrap up near Martinborough in just over a week’s time, on June 10-11.

The two South Island rounds of the national series that have already been staged were also recognised as the two-round South Island Enduro Champs – and so those trophies have therefore now been awarded. The two North Island rounds that now follow will be documented also as rounds one and two of the parallel-but-separate North Island Enduro Championships.

In addition, this weekend’s racing at Moonshine qualifies as round one of the Macaulay Metals Central Enduro Series (on Monday only).

2023 NZ Enduro Champs calendar:

Round 1: May 6-7, Omihi, North Canterbury.

Round 2: May 13-14, Pigeon Valley Road, south of Nelson.

Round 3: June 4-5, Moonshine Valley Road, near Porirua, Wellington.

Round 4: June 10-11, Martinborough.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com